New FX Series 'Snowfall' Tackles The '80s Crack Epidemic

By David Konow 07/05/17

The compelling series from acclaimed director John Singleton debuts tonight on FX.

a scene from Snowfall
Photo via YouTube

With the success of his debut film, Boyz n the Hood, John Singleton became an overnight success at the age of 24. Now he’s turning his talents to cable with Snowfall, a new series on FX that deals with how the crack epidemic took hold in the '80s.

Snowfall, which debuts on July 5, has generated good buzz from critics, and the acclaimed director has high hopes for the series. It’s a personal project for Singleton who says that when he was studying film at USC, “I was on a kamikaze mission to really tell stories from my perspective—an authentic black perspective.”

While Singleton has dabbled in TV, directing episodes for shows like Empire, he knew that when he decided to make the move to direct a series of his own, he wanted it to be epic like Game of Thrones.

He told UPROXX, "I was like 'What can I do?... I got it! We’ll do something about how cocaine changed everything in LA.' Because you have these stories, these various drug stories in different mediums, from film to TV that have been told. It’s always from Miami or the East Coast version of it. The West Coast version of it has never really been told, ever. Ever. Until now."

Like Traffic, Snowfall is an ensemble piece with several parallel stories. The central character of Snowfall, Franklin, loosely based on Singleton, is a kid growing up in South Central, bussed into high school in the San Fernando Valley—but instead of going to college, he sees a big opportunity to become a dealer. Other characters in the story include a CIA agent running drugs to fund anti-communist rebels in South America, à la Iran Contra, and a Mexican wrestler who hopes to move up the ladder by becoming a gangster.

Growing up in South Central, Singleton saw crack hit the inner city firsthand. He told The Guardian, “I remember friends who never had any money starting to have money. It was like, ‘OK, that’s where it’s coming from.’ I’ll never forget seeing kids I knew shaking down grown people for money they owed for drugs. Seeing a kid, just nine or 10, kicking a grown man in the leg saying, ‘Motherfucker, you better get me my money.’ It was surreal.”

Regarding the CIA plot of the series, Singleton says, “They made it easy for these people to bring in cocaine and then crack. It’s not like they did it in a diabolical way to bring black people down. They were just indifferent to the end result. The same thing is happening in the U.S. now with prescription meds and opioids. They’re doing it right now, but they’re doing it to their own people.”

The CIA plot has already drawn controversy, with documentation hard to come by, but Singleton told The Hollywood Reporter, “There are people that lived this stuff, we had to bring people in the room that could speak to this. We brought in consultants who were deep into each part of it.”

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.